The Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office has instituted some interesting changes in the jail the past few months. These changes benefit the inmates as well as assist Sheriff’s Office employees in better serving the inmate and protecting the citizens of the county.
The Sheriff’s Office updated a small meeting room in the basement which allows for inmates to receive in-house counseling for mental health and substance abuse treatment. This is essential for inmates to receive the care they need in a controlled environment. Providing services in-house costs the county less in travel expenses and allows the employees to conduct other crucial business.
Providing these services also saves the county, in some cases, the need to commit an inmate to in-patient treatment at a mental health facility or substance abuse treatment center. A commitment to either one of these facilities can cost several thousand dollars for a short stay.
These counseling sessions also allow the inmate to express their feelings and concerns to a certified licensed Counselor. Doing so lowers the inmates anxiety level, alleviates some of the depression that many associate with while being confined and creates a much safer environment for all inmates and staff. Several suicidal inmates were counseled which led to a very positive outcome. The treatment brought the inmates to safe mental and physical base which allowed extra suicide prevention procedures to be withdrawn and the inmates were allowed to return to normal classification.
Without these counseling sessions I am positive extra costs would have been facing the county. Most importantly is the savings that cannot be measured in jail safety and security. What cost do you place on inmate on inmate or inmate on jail staff assaults? What cost savings is associated with prevention of those situations or attempted or successful suicides? These sessions not only benefit the county and the inmate while confined, but also gives the inmate a solid base to begin anew once released from jail.
The second huge change in the jail is our work release program. Until recently, when an inmate received court ordered work release, we had to physically drive to the place of employment to spot check the inmate. The second option we had was to contact other agencies, if the inmate worked outside of Palo Alto County, to check on our inmates. We recently revamped our work release program and use GPS technology to track our inmates.
When our inmates receive court ordered work release they are fitted with an electronic ankle monitor that sends a signal to a satellite. This signal is then located on a map on the internet which tracks their movement. The mapping can be utilized on any of the computers at the Sheriff’s Office and on our cell phones.
The use of this technology is a great way to save Deputy time and money in traveling to worksites and physically checking on inmates. We are able to go about our business and continuously monitor our inmates. There are other features associated with our work release program that also enable this process to work. Contact by phone is initiated by the inmate if a work site needs to change which gives more flexibility to those that do not work at a specific site. A good example of this is roofers, construction employees and route drivers.
Spot checks are still conducted but we also initiated random drug testing. An inmate’s work release privilege will be revoked if they report to the jail to begin their time and they drop a positive urinalysis for drugs. A report will be filed with the Court advising of such action and the court then has the discretion to permanently rescind their prior order or allow work release to be withheld until a clean urinalysis is obtained.
We currently have 10 inmates in our 8 capacity jail. Of those 10, 3 are on work release at some point during the day. These 3 are released in enough time to travel to work and then return to jail when work is completed.
Since we began our electronic monitoring and drug testing we have had to revoke the work release privilege of a few inmates. These safe guards protect the inmate, the Sheriff’s Office and the public. When these folks are at work, they are still under the control of the Sheriff and are still inmates. Putting in place a work release program that has some teeth and accountability is a win-win for all.
The cost of the ankle monitor is paid for by the inmate and costs the county nothing. Now how is that for cost efficiency!
These are just of few of the many changes that have been implemented over the last three years at the Sheriff’s Office. I need to commend and thank all staff for being patient and putting forth extra hours during the time things were being mixed up. Change is not always easy but it can be rewarded with great success!
Sheriff Lynn J Schultes